The motif of a single shepherdess, standing in isolation and knitting, was one to which Millet returned throughout his career and it appears in some of his major works from the 1850s onwards. He was perhaps attracted by its ready combination of realistic, tender subject matter and simple monumentality.
The studio stamp at the lower right was used at the time of Millet's studio sale on 10-11 May 1875 and not, as has been erroneously stated, at the time of his widow's estate sale. However, not everything with the present work's stamp was actually offered in the sale; some works were kept by family members, some given to friends or sold privately. As our work cannot be securely identified amongst those offered, it may well be amongst that second group of works retained after the sale.
We are grateful to Alexandra Murphy for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.